According to a recent study by the National Safety Council, as many as 80 percent of employers in Indiana have had to deal with the effects of opioid abuse or misuse by employees.

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Employees that abuse opioids — prescription drugs like Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycontin — are more likely to call in sick or miss work. The risk of workplace accidents increase with opioid use, and worker’s compensation costs increase four-fold where those drugs are present.

The economic impact is significant. Researchers estimate the annual economic impact of opioid abuse at around $60 billion, half of that in workplace costs.

How widespread is the problem? According to surveys, 4.3 million Americans engaged in non-medical use of prescription painkillers in the last month, and more than half got them from a friend or family member.

How can your business counter the trend?

Add testing for prescription drug use to your drug testing policy. Consult with local law enforcement and community health leaders to discover which prescription drugs are most likely to be abused in your area. Also consult with legal experts to be sure your testing program falls within local, state and federal guidelines. Worker’s compensation insurance providers are also an excellent resource.

Educate employees about the dangers of prescription misuse. Employees should know about risks to their health and safety, as well as legal risks such as the loss of driving privileges. Supervisors should be well versed in identifying signs of impairment, and should know the company’s drug testing and use policies.

Institute an employee assistance program. Provide free, confidential help to employees who might be struggling with prescription drug abuse or other issues that could impact safety and productivity.

For more, check out the National Safety Council’s helpful guide for employers.